Earlier this week our community was targeted with robocalls and flyers inviting residents to a “highly informative night of science and discussion.” Outsiders from across the country, including discredited former British doctor Andrew Wakefield who was teleconferenced in, came here to drive a wedge into the heart of our community; spreading misinformation, debunked “science” and outright lies.
The type of propaganda they spread is a danger to the health and safety of children within our community and around the world. They came here in an attempt to undermine our success; more than 20,500 MMR vaccinations given in Rockland since October 2018; strong advocacy to remove all non-medical exemptions to vaccination state-wide. They are scared because our message that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is safe and effective has been heard loud and clear in our county, our state and even nationally.
The combined outreach and education efforts undertaken by the Rockland County Department of Health, local officials and religious leaders have had a significant effect and show that this anti-vaccination message is not welcome here. Further, when we first heard about this event, it was from people in our community who said “NO! We will not allow these lies to be peddled here. We will not allow anyone else to fall victim to these predators.” The calls, text messages and emails that followed spread quickly across our county.
I heard from Town Supervisors, Village Mayors, Doctors, Rabbis and community activists that they were telling everyone they knew not to attend this event. While, unfortunately, hundreds did go to this mis-“informative night” many were bused in from places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Lakewood, New Jersey. Others locally went to protest and to warn their neighbors that these anti-vaccination outsiders were not to be believed. I am proud of every Rocklander who denounced this night and called it what it really was; an attempt by these anti-vaxxers to attack our right of self-determination.
We truly are making progress. Not only has more than 6% of Rockland’s population been vaccinated but many more people now understand the importance of vaccination and how lifesaving vaccines are. I urge our residents to continue to ignore these attempts to exploit our differences and ask that they stand together as one Rockland in defense and support of our community. We, not these fringe elements, will determine our future by charting a course designed to ensure the health of each and every Rocklander. I will expend every ounce of my energy to make that happen.